(8 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Those of you that read this irregular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile of so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River. It was a redneck sort of place, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.
I never write about living people except with their express permission, so this installment is about a long dead denizen of Hackett.
Arthur was not a nice man, by any means. When I was around 10 years old, I would guess that he was around 45, give or take. I suspect that he looked well over his real age, because he pretty much abused himself.
Arthur was one of those folks who just did what he wanted to do, regardless of the law, the community, or the peace. He was a really, really bad man. How he never went to the penitentiary still escapes me.
Arthur ran the Apco gasoline station directly across Main Street in Hackett from our house. He was good at parking broken down cars just off of the street, and I remember a 1959 Chevrolet Impala sitting there for at least three years. I remember him from around 1965 to around 1976 or so.
He was a big, fat gutted, burly man. He usually wore dirty clothes, horrible shop uniforms literally covered with black oil and grease from the little business that he got for his shop. He was also a confirmed, violent alcoholic, and Hackett was “dry”. He would bring beer back from Fort Smith, a wet region, and sell it out of his trailer. We call those folks “bootleggers”. He was a very mean, and violent, person.
When I was little, and I am talking around seven years or so, I always waved and said “Hello!” to everyone. Even to him. His response was either to ignore me, wave me off, or flip me the bird, and I did not even know what that meant. At one time I thought that it was a friendly greeting, so I would do it back to him! Nice guy.
About that time, my parents, and Gene and Katie (I posted about them here earlier) told me that I should just ignore him, and I did. Since his shop was directly across from the house, I changed my route to Gene and Katie’s store so that I would not have to cross his path.
But I could still understand what he said, from his shop, when things did not go well. Many of the profane words in my vocabulary were from his, so I guess that I can give him a backhanded compliment! LOL!
My grandmother owned the lot just beside his trailer, which was behind his shop, just to the south. There were lots of very nice post oak trees there, just on her side of the fenceline. One day, during a really bad windstorm, a limb from one of her trees fell onto his trailer, and he sued her for $10,000. In the late 1960s, that was a LOT of money! His trailer was probably not worth more than $5000 at the time.
She hired an attorney (who coincidentally happened to be the Eagle Scout that led our troop years earlier) to represent her. By the time that Jackie got done, they settled for around $500, my grandmum paying that. She was hell on wheels, because she hired my cousins to cut down EVERY TREE on that lot that might shade his trailer, just “to make sure” that another limb would fall on his trailer.
The next summer, without the shade of the trees, his trailer was 25 degrees F warmer than it was the last year! He screwed himself! Good on Ma! Uncle David was renting the lot where the trees were from Ma, and ran a couple of calves there to fatten for sale. Not too long, after the trees were gone, someone cut his nicely constructed fence is several places, letting the calves out and costing Uncle David money to repair it. But it was worse for him. Uncle David is an extremely careful craftsman, and that fence was perfect. To see it ruined, and then to have to patch it, hurt him. All of the family suspected that Arthur was behind it, but there was absolutely no evidence at all, except for a fence that was cut, so nothing more was ever made of it.
Just before that, Arthur had a bad, mean, biting, aggressive dog. Pretty much like he was. That dog would penetrate into my father’s well kept kennels, where he kept his shorthaired pointer quail dogs. One morning I went out to feed dad’s dogs, and that very aggressive one was in there.
I was able to get our dogs into their houses and chased the renegade out of the kennel, but I knew that he would be back. I fed our dogs and had to rush off to school, but resolved to kill that renegade dog later. Of course, his dog tried to bite me when I ran him out of the kennel, and was there to breed with the female that Dad had in the kennel and to fight the two males. I know that this might be harsh, but when you have a killer dog attacking, to keep yours alive, you have to kill it.
Negotiating with Arthur would have been less than fruitless, because he was an extremely unreasonable man. If we had gone to him and asked him to keep his dog home, the very least that we would have received would have been a cursing (over at home they call it “blessing us out”), and perhaps even other retaliation, like him poisoning our dogs.
I got back home from school early, and found my .22 calibre rifle, and loaded it, ready to kill that dog. Dad was home, and asked me what I was doing with the rifle.
“Dad, I am going to kill that brindle dog, Old Man Holloway’s one!”
Dad calmly said, “No, you won’t.”
“But, Dad, it is hurting your dogs, attacking us, and may be rabid! Please let me shoot it!”
Dad was calm. “No, David, you can not kill it.” “Dad, buy why not?” He took me outside.
Then he lifted the trunk of the car, and there was that evil creature, already quite dead, in a sack.
He sort of smiled, and said, “I already did it!”
Dad took the carcass many miles and kicked it down a steep bluff, so that Holloway would not find it and connect it with Dad.
Another time, dad and I were working on the fence in the front yard and Arthur came and threatened to kill dad for no good reason. This was years later than the dog episode. Dad carried a pistol in his pocket for several years after that.
This is all not that important. But it gets worse.
Holloway loved to keep company with the riffraff, very young kids in Hackett, and to lure them, built a very hot “GO CART”. He, decades older than the kids, would race it on the back streets of Hackett, often at over 50 MPH. The streets were not very long, and one night, with Holloway driving, the vehicle hit something that would not move.
The teenage person riding on the illegal device was killed instantly, with multiple skull fractures. The autopsies showed that they were all legally drunk, and at the time, 0.08% was not the standard. Holloway had provided all of the alcohol. He never served a second in prison for manslaughter, but he should have.
I am not sure what were the circumstances of Arthur’s death. By the time that he died, I was married, at university, and really was not interested in him any more, since he never killed Dad. To the best of my memory, very few folks in Hackett mourned his demise. It was more like good riddance for them. His property was auctioned off, and here is an irony to make one go, “Hmmmmm”. The cousins that I mentioned previously who cut down the oak trees ended up with the property and built their new electrical contracting business building on the very site of the Apco station, with their laydown yard where his trailer used to sit.
I encourage others to post recollections of their early experiences in the comments here. Please restrict them to your formative years, before you were 16 or so, give or take. Obviously, followups after you became older are fair game as well, but I really would rather have early experiences. I do not want this series to become a Facebook knockoff about what we did yesterday.